But what we make. So far, we seem to be making a piss-poor job of it.
Recently, I was asked to make the “pessimistic case for the future.” I present instead more of a “pessimistic take on the present.” The future, while imminent, is obscure. The present, by contrast, is knowable. This is also not so much a “case” replete with exhaustive evidence—there isn’t space for that, nor is there a need—as a quick tour through our present hell. No one who thinks “everything is fine” will be persuaded otherwise. Those who see the seriousness of our problems hardly need proof. Nor have I made any attempt to be evenhanded, much less philosophically detached. My account is perforce one-sided. I hope it is wrong.
Alas, all evidence to date indicates that it isn’t. In fact, seeing as how this is Michael Anton we’re talking about here, one might reasonably assume that it’s all dead accurate; with him, that’s practically always the case. In this essay, Anton breaks his arguments down into sub-categories, which for purposes of this excerpt I’ll present as is, formatting intact (ie, italics). No better place to begin than the beginning, right?
The Constitution Is All but Dead
We Americans are supposed to govern ourselves via a constitution that rests on a specific understanding of natural right (right and wrong, good and evil, better and worse exist by nature) and natural rights (government’s job is to secure people’s God-given rights to life, liberty, property, etc.). The Constitution specifically declares and delimits the purposes of government and its powers, and it specifies how we the people choose the officers of the state, who are supposed to exercise those powers.
We still choose, sort of, but that hardly matters, because the people we nominally elect do not hold real power. And when they do, they often use it for unconstitutional ends. America’s real rulers are not the constitutional officers we nominally elect, and certainly not the American people, whom our understanding of political legitimacy asserts to be sovereign. They are, rather, a network of unelected bureaucrats, revolving-door Cabinet and subcabinet officials, corporate-tech-finance senior management, “experts” who set the boundaries of acceptable opinion, and media figures who police them.
Add to this the routine, repeated violations of our explicitly guaranteed rights—Big Tech censoring free speech, big cities denying the right of self-defense, the government itself violating the right to be secure in one’s person, home, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures—and it becomes more than a stretch to describe the United States as any longer a “constitutional republic.”
We Have Two-Track “Justice”
How the same offense is treated by our “justice” system depends on who’s committed it and, often, for what purpose. At the upper strata, compare the treatment of Hillary Clinton, James Comey, and Andrew McCabe with that of Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Steve Bannon, Carter Page, and Michael Flynn. Clinton illegally hid, and then deleted, her proprietary—and classified—communications from government records. Comey and McCabe orchestrated the Russia Hoax and lied about it. None of these three was even charged.
The latter five have all been hounded by the state—some convicted and imprisoned, all at least bankrupted and defamed. Their crimes, to the extent that any were even committed, were all much less serious than those of the regime darlings.
Compare the treatment of the Jan. 6 protesters with the total impunity granted to the summer 2020 rioters. One example: Two lawyers, literally caught throwing Molotov cocktails, were given slaps on the wrist. Meanwhile, Kyle Rittenhouse was charged with first-degree murder (one of six charges) for shooting two deranged thugs who were in the process of trying to kill him. All over the country, and especially in blue-ruled precincts, acts of self-defense will get you arrested, jailed, and possibly imprisoned. Meanwhile, in the Black Lives Matter era, so long as the perp is the correct race or acting in a sanctified cause, violence and arson are excused.
Skipping a couple categories down, we come to what I consider to be the most condemnatory, troubling, and just downright infuriating of the entire lot.
We’re So Blinkered by Ideology that We Can’t—or Won’t—Apply Obvious Solutions to Simple Problems
The same way we don’t lock up criminals because “racism,” there is almost no end to the sensible things we refuse to do, and the stupid things we eagerly do, because of ideology.
The United States is presently in the midst of our worst energy crunch since the 1970s. Instead of expanding supply, we are constricting it. Why? “Climate change.” But nuclear would generate energy without carbon emissions. The same people who say no drilling also say no nuclear. Why? Supposedly, because the plants themselves and the waste they generate are “unsafe,” though nuclear power has a near-perfect record in this and nearly all countries. (The real reason is to force everyone to don the hairshirt.)
Our drug problem is fueled by Mexican cartels that cross our border with impunity. But we don’t secure the border because “no human is illegal.” Monkeypox is transmitted at homosexual orgies. We won’t close bath houses because “love is love.” But we will close churches, gyms, and restaurants over Covid. That’s an emergency!
“WE’RE so blinkered”? As Tonto said to the Lone Ranger, whatchoo mean WE, white man? The shitlibs own that one lock, stock, and barrel. Which of course Anton knows, as the above-cited examples demonstrate without explicitly spelling out.
By the end, each of Anton’s sub-cats tie in together to present a scarifying portrait of where we now are, with seriously ominous indications of where we might be heading. Essentially, he uses interlocking bricks to construct an unassailable wall of logic and observation as deftly as a Master Brickmason. For instance, the connection betwixt “We Prioritize “Diversity” Over Mission and Performance” and “Our Military Doesn’t Win” is readily apparent, with the first being a primary reason for the second. It’s a blunt-force yet subtle strategy of argumentation that even TeeWee lawyer Perry Mason could only shake his head in awe and admiration at, being fond of the same sort of thing himself.
Most condemnatory, depressing line of all has to be the one which caps off the mercifully-concise “Nothing Works Anymore” sub-cat: “The whole country is becoming the DMV.” To which the response can only be: ouch. Also: YIKES!
Much, much more yet to this typically top-notch article, of which you should definitely read the all. Adapted from Anton’s contribution to Encounter Books’s Up from Conservatism compilation, it’s as comprehensive, unflinching, and clear-eyed an examination of the roots of our woes as can be imagined. From the EB website’s book-blurb:
The Conservative Establishment’s consensus of the past two generations has almost totally broken down. Conservatism was unable to stop or even slow the Left’s rolling revolutions in nearly every sector of American society—from classrooms to boardrooms, from the military to the culture at large. The Left has successfully transformed the nation over the past few generations, racking up victory after victory, with no clear end in sight. This is not sustainable for the country or the constituency represented by the Republican Party. For the Right to have a serious future, it needs to rethink its positions and think more deeply about the essential policy questions which will define the future of the country: race, men and women, sexuality, religion, the economy, foreign policy, and other major issues. This collection of essays, written by some of the Right’s most interesting thinkers and practitioners, seeks to reframe the ideological and policy direction of the American Right.
Can’t find a whole lot to argue with there, other than to say I’m extremely doubtful that “think(ing) more deeply about…policy questions” will ever avail us much. When you get right down to the nut-cutting, it amounts to putting the policy cart before the ideological horse.
The conflict presently before us doesn’t primarily revolve around “policy,” but fundamental beliefs. Unfortunately, we find ourselves smack in the middle of a struggle involving ideologies which are entirely incompatible, one insistent on totalitarianism and absolute, unchallenged State power over the individual, the other on ordered liberty and the right to be left alone to live as one chooses, within certain constraints to which both parties are in agreement.
There can be no reconciliation of the two, no satisfactory compromise, no middle ground. As pretty much all of 20th-century history more than adequately demonstrates, whenever and wherever the Leftist glioblastoma is permitted to metastasize and flourish within a liberty-oriented body politic this conflict is made inevitable. One side must win, the other must lose. Once the victor has been determined, “policy” will necessarily flow from there.